Thursday, April 23, 2009

NT Wright on the discontinuous resurrected body

1 Corinthians 15:51-52
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

In my resurrection debate with Canon Michael Cole , I argued that Paul did not believe corpses were resurrected, so did not believe the corpse of Jesus rose from the grave.

Instead, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5 that the earthly body is destroyed, and that we get a heavenly body.

But what did Paul believe would happen to Christians of his time? He told them that they would not all die, so how could they get a heavenly body if death did not destroy their earthly body?

Paul answers that question in 1 Corinthians 15:52-52 where he says 'we' (NB not our bodies) will be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.

Why does Paul insist this happens 'in a flash'?

It must be to emphasises the discontinuity of the old and new body. Why else emphasise the lightning speed of the change?

There is not to be one nano-second of overlap, where the old body is in a process of transformation to the new body.

Contrast that with Ezekiel 37 where clearly a transformation does not take place 'in a flash'.

In Paul's view ,we make a quantum jump from the old body to the new body, which means there is no intermediate state. One instant we are in the old body. The next instant we are in the new body.

A transformation that takes place in a flash is not a transformation at all. It is a replacement. A transformation is a process, and a process takes a finite time.

But why would Paul emphasise the speed at all if not to impress on the Corinthians the replacement of one body by another, rather than its transformation? There can be no other reason to stress the speed, other than to rub the 'foolish' Corinthians nose in the fact that there is no time for one body to turn into another.

Paul is emphasising the discontinuity between the earthly body and the heavenly body.

This ties in with the fact that he had no stories of corpses leaving tombs. He taught that we left our earthly bodies behind to be destroyed and moved into heavenly bodies.

Which contradicts Gospel stories of a body going into a tomb and a body leaving the tomb.

In 'The Resurrection of the Son of God', NT Wright has a footnote on page 359 on this very verse, where he admits the discontinuous nature of the bodies.

Wright writes 'We may note at this point that those who will be 'changed', here and in Phil. 3:21 will thus , it seems, pass directly from the present bodily life to the future bodily life without any intermediate state.'

This is the very definition of 'discontinuous'. Two states are continuous only if an intermediate state could be found between them. But instant jumps from one state to another are the definition of 'discontinuity'

So even Wright cannot spin away Paul's words entirely to make Paul say that the earthly body turns into the heavenly body, which is what is needed if Paul is not to contradict the Gospels.

5 Comments:

Blogger Dane said...

"If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you , the one who raised Chrisfrom the dead will give life to your MORTAL BODIES also through his Spirit that dwells in you." Thus says Paul in Rom 8:11. He goes on in 8:19-23 to state the docrine of a renewed Physical Universe that is not subject to corruption (ie. "decay") exactly paralel to the Incoruptuptable bodies of men in the renewed cosmos presented in Cor 15. He also gives the principle by which this incoruptable-and-inpassable-physicality shall be given by the spirit. The contrast is not between a "physical" (or even "natural")human body and a spiritual one but between a "psychic" body and a spiritual (or better "pneumatic") one, that is between a body anemated by a merely human life principle (the "psyche" ie. soul) and one animated by by the Spirit of God.

The Contrast between heavenly and eartly then is not between physicality and incorporality, but between, man living in God (through Christ) or man living in himself (through Adam).

10:48 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

These obscure passages do not contradict the clear statement in 2 Corinthians 5 that the earthly 'tent' is destroyed.

There is not a word about resurrection in Romans 8:11

It simply means that Christians will have the life-giving spirit of God dwelling in them when they become Christians.

Before they became Christians, they were dead men walking. Becoming Christians means they are now alive (and their bodies remain mortal bodies)

And, of course, Romans 8:19-23 contains not one word meaning 'resurrection'.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

I see that Dane does not bother with things like 'context'

Look at the verse just before Romans 8:11

'But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.'

Clearly, the Christians did *not* have dead bodies. The 'death' of the body in Romans 8:10 is totally metaphorical, not literal. This means that the 'life' in the next verse is also metaphorical, not literal.

As for verses 19-23, why not quote them 'We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.'

The metaphor of childbirth clearly suggests a new child that is not the mother transformed into a baby.

When 'creation' is groaning as in the pains of childbirth, it is no more going to be 'renewed' than a mother is renewed when she gives birth.

Don't people actually read the Bible?

11:01 AM  
Blogger Angus M said...

Hey thanks for this post - really interesting. I find the whole idea of a resurrection BODY such a life-giving hope - rather than disembodied heavenly floating for eternity. I found this article really helpful on it. http://www.theologynetwork.org/christian-beliefs/creation-and-new-creation/starting-out/the-physical-future.htm

9:00 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

And Paul thought of a resurrection body too.

After all, even ghosts have ghostly bodies.

Paul just never claims that the corpse becomes the resurrected body.

For Paul, that would be like a fish turning into the Moon.

1:26 PM  

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